USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue has announced the government agency will make available $800 million to agricultural producers in Southeast states affected by 2018 hurricanes Michael and Florence. The state block grants are part of a broader $3 billion package to help producers recover from 2018 and 2019 natural disasters, which includes the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program-Plus (WHIP+) as well as programs for loss of milk and stored commodities.
USDA and the governor’s office in Florida as well as the state departments of agriculture in Alabama and Georgia are working out final details for the grants, which will cover qualifying losses not covered by other USDA disaster programs. Grant funding will cover losses of timber, cattle, poultry, as well as for necessary expenses related to losses of horticulture crops and present value losses associated with pecan production.
Florida will receive $380.7 million of the funding to help its timber industry, which took the full force of Category 5 Hurricane Michael last October.
“This funding is a huge victory for Florida’s timber producers,” said Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried. “Since January, we’ve been working closely with USDA to secure relief for our timber industry, whose resilience in the year following Hurricane Michael has been extraordinary. In the coming weeks, our priority will be moving this funding forward so that timber producers can have checks in hand and trees in the ground.”
For covered commodities, USDA’s Farm Service Agency opened signup for WHIP+ in September and has since distributed millions of dollars in assistance to producers throughout the country to help with recovery from 2018 and 2019 disasters. Signup for the program will continue into 2020.
“Natural disasters dealt producers some hefty blows in the past couple of years,” stated Secretary Perdue. “This relief complements USDA’s tool chest of disaster assistance programs and crop insurance. In many cases, these special programs help us better reach producers who suffered substantial losses beyond what our regular programs cover. While we can’t make producers whole, we can give them a helping hand to get back on their feet and prepare for next year’s planting and harvest.”
For more details about the USDA disaster assistance, visit https://www.fsa.usda.gov.